Homily – 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C)
The readings for the last few weeks have been speaking about faith. Saving faith as we see in the Gospel is more than merely believing in something. 10 of the lepers in the Gospel believed that Christ could heal them. Only one returned glorifying God and thanking him. And it was to that one that Jesus says your faith has saved you. A saving faith is one which causes us to respond to the person of Jesus Christ. It is one that causes us to return to him again and again in thanksgiving and praise. It is not merely coming to Mass on Sunday and punching the clock to guarantee you a spot in heaven. Faith is more than that.
True faith is faith in a person. I have mentioned this over and over again. It is faith in the person of Jesus Christ. One of the biggest differences between Protestants and Catholics centers around how we are saved. Protestants believe that we are saved by faith alone. That is what Luther called sola fide. Catholics believe it is more complex that that. We believe that a saving faith is one that transforms ones life completely. Like the lepers today in the Gospel 10 had faith Jesus could heal them but it only changed one of their lives. That was the one that was saved. We know that true faith in our life must bear fruit in our lives. The tree is our faith, the fruit is our works. You will know a tree by its fruit. Even in Paul’s Letter to James it says faith without works is dead. Even the demons believe that Christ is the son of God. They recognized it before the apostles did. But it couldn’t save them. Why? Intellectual belief is not enough. You can’t just agree that Jesus is the Son of God and expect that to get you to heaven. If we just go to Jesus for the things we want or so we can get to heaven then we are like the 9 lepers in the gospel. We are merely looking to get something we want. That is an ungrateful heart. A truly grateful heart is one that changes our lives and the way we live. It is one that acknowledge God as Lord and transforms our lives. It is one that makes us return to him glorifying him for the work he has done in our lives. It is one that makes us fall on our knees in gratitude. Not just on Sunday’s when everybody else kneels. It is a gratitude that moves our hearts during the week to praise God and thank him for the good in our lives. It is a gratitude that shows itself when we are faced with suffering. We thank God for what he has done in our lives and we thank him for even the things that cause us pain because our faith tells us that even in those moments that hurt so badly, God’s hand is moving. He will not give us anything we can’t bear. That is his promise. We thank God for the grace he gives us go get through it.
Gratitude is the one response that is appropriate in all things. Scripture says: In all things give thanks. But how many people are truly grateful? I would say the Gospel example is pretty reflective as well as the collection plate on Sunday’s in most Church’s. We give God what is left over. I heard just this week about a parish that was complaining because they have a priest from India and he has an accent. They aren’t thankful that a priest left his country, his family, his friends and came thousands of miles so they could have a priest in their parish. They complained about his accent. That is a sure sign of a selfish and ungrateful heart. I could give you many examples but I don’t think I have to point them out. You read Galatians Chapter 5 and you will see the war between the flesh and the spirit. You know the people who complain about petty things, gossip when don’t like something, and are critical and negative most of the time. That is a sure sign of an ungrateful heart. It is not a heart that embraces the person of Jesus Christ. It is one that seeks to get what they want from religion rather than praising God for what they have been given.
Ingratitude is at the heart of every sin. Lucifer was ungrateful that he wasn’t God and he rebelled and became consumed by hate. Adam and Eve were given the Garden of Eden and could eat from any tree except one. Were they thankful for what they had been given? No, they allowed Satan to speak his lies in their heart; Not gratitude for all they had been given but rather they focused on the one thing that they were not. And their ingratitude led them to rebel. How dare God say I can’t do that. And they reached out and took it and all hell broke loose.
We are not so very different. For all we have been given, that vast majority of us spend little time in prayers of thanksgiving and most of our time complaining. We are not thankful for what we have been given but angry about what we don’t have. How can I say this? Because all of us are sinners. At the heart of every sin is an ungrateful heart. Conversely a heart full of gratitude has little room for rebellion. If we were to spend more time in thanksgiving and less time complaining we would be a lot better off. Most of us look to Christ for what he can give us. That is not love. That is using someone. Love looks to what it can give to the other. Christ has to be someone we truly love. Someone we need to seek out daily. Someone we ache to see daily. Someone we cannot live without. Someone we are thankful to spend time with. If he isn’t then we deny him like the lepers did. We seek to use him and not love him. The consequences of that are clear. But if we deny him he will deny us. A saving faith in Jesus Christ is one that transforms our life, makes us return to him on our knees, glorifying and praising him for what he has done. Well, Father, he didn’t save me from leprosy. No what he did was far greater. He saved you from eternal death if you are willing to allow him to change your life. Listen to Isaiah 53:
Who would believe what we have heard? To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him.
He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, One of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem.
Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, While we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed.
We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all.
Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth.
Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, and who would have thought any more of his destiny? When he was cut off from the land of the living, and smitten for the sin of his people, A grave was assigned him among the wicked and a burial place with evildoers, Though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood.
(But the LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity.) If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.
Because of his affliction he shall see the light in fullness of days; Through his suffering, my servant shall justify many, and their guilt he shall bear. Therefore I will give him his portion among the great, and he shall divide the spoils with the mighty, Because he surrendered himself to death and was counted among the wicked; And he shall take away the sins of many, and win pardon for their offenses.
By his stripes we were healed. The question left for each of us is what kind of leper are we? Are we with the 9 that walk away? Or are we the one who fall on our knees in gratitude and change our lives?